Current projects

The Great West Ozzie Transect (GWOT) [2017-present]

The Great West Ozzie Transect is supported by the Ian Potter Foundation, the Pangaea Initiative, North Port Marine, the Minderoo Foundation, Parks Australia, and private philanthropy. GWOT provides a platform to document the status of ocean wildlife such as tunas, billfish and sharks, along Australia’s west coast and to raise public awareness about the “big blue”. The focus of the work is the suite of Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMR), established by the Australian government in 2014, as well as additional sites deserving of protection. To date, first surveys have been completed at the Cocos Keeling Islands, the Gascoyne CMR, the Perth Canyon CMR and the Geographe CMR. Upcoming expeditions will see the big blue team at Bremer Bay, Dirk Hartog Island and WA’s far north.

The Pangaea Initiative [2015-2019]

The Pangaea Initiative is an outcome of a philanthropic gift to UWA from the Teach Green Foundation (USA) and Outpost Expedition Pacific (OEP), with the latter providing the M/Y Pangaea as a research platform. Teach Green Foundation and OEP have committed to a five year program (2015-2019) to expand our understanding of the role of sharks in reef ecology. This gift reflects the donors’ vision to increase global awareness of the need for research to support marine conservation and to encourage philanthropic support in this area.

The M/Y Pangaea was designed to promote research in remote locations. The vessel supports research diving, has multiple tenders that allow access from reef flats to offshore locations, with on-board storage for samples and scientific equipment. Work areas further real time data processing with high speed internet to allow frequent reporting and other communications. Importantly, Pangaea’s team includes experienced fishing guides and crew members that have supported a range of marine research programmes globally.

2015 and 2016 saw three successful expeditions completed in the Chagos Archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory, the largest no-take marine protected area in the Indian Ocean. In addition, in late 2016, the Pangaea Initiative extended its research activity to Australia, including for the first time blue water environments with their rich shark diversity.

The Marine Biodiversity Hub [2015-2021]

The Marine Biodiversity Hub is part of the National Environmental Science Progamme (NESP), an initiative of the Australian Government. Its focus is the provision of research to support ocean management. Phil Bouchet leads our work on predictive modelling of pelagic (open-water) wildlife. Our focus is to model the distribution of pelagic sharks and fishes in relation to habitat and environmental conditions, identifying hotspots of diversity and abundance. Through this program we collaborate closely with GeoScience Australia (GA) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

This project is a continuation of our work as part of the previous government’s National Environmental Research Programme (NERP, 2011-2014). Under NERP, Tom Letessier and Phil Bouchet led our work, completing exploratory surveys of the pelagic wildlife in Commonwealth Marine Reserves in the Timor Sea and off Perth, using our mid-water stereo camera rigs. Our NERP project also led to the development of models to predict the distribution of marine wildlife in relation to habitat.

In order to be responsive to the changing needs of environmental decision-makers, NESP also provides additional funding to address new and emerging research priorities. As of 2016, we have been involved in a collaborative NESP Emerging Priorities Project focused on the distribution of large megafauna in the Bremer Canyon region. Led by Prof. Jessica Meeuwig, and in partnership with Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Murdoch University, the Marine Information & Research Group, and Naturaliste Charters, the project seeks to improve our understanding of the importance of the Bremer Commonwealth marine reserve (and adjacent waters) as a wildlife aggregation site underpinning a thriving local ecotourism industry. A strategic combination of aerial surveys, baited videography surveys, and ocean glider deployments will generate the data necessary to provide insights into the ecological processes at play within the Bremer canyon system and support informed conservation and management arrangements.

National Geographic – Pristine Seas [2014-present]

The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas Programme was established to find, survey, and help protect the last wild places in the ocean. We have joined the Pristine Seas team to provide the first non-destructive and quantitative data on the open-ocean sharks and fishes of these wild places, with mid-water camera surveys undertaken in Palau (2014), Rapa (French Polynesia) (2014) and the Ilhas Selvagens (2015).